Features

The New World of Play is Among Us

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By Jim Silver

After 37 years in the “toy” business, I am officially declaring it’s no longer just the “toy” business anymore.

Let’s start with Hasbro, which has truly transformed into a “family entertainment company.” Collectibles for adults of all ages, with Hasbro Pulse growing like crazy. Games for all ages, including a very large adult party game business. Wizards of the Coast, another segment for us “older kids.” Digital Gaming growing like crazy. Nerf Rival is age graded 14+. Entertainment One, content creators of movies, TV, and digital content, also creators of Peppa Pig, PJ Masks, and Ricky Zoom — plus much more of their content  falls into the adult category. Think of the financial analysts that are now covering a company that I estimate has 40%+ off their business not trackable.

LEGO is now a 6.99 billion dollar behemoth! You can’t categorize LEGO. Construction Toys for all ages, Activity Toys, “art,” video games, movie and television content, digital and app games, with fans of ALL ages. LEGO’s growth in 2020 was over 20%, and while a piece of that can be attributed to the pandemic ( I, for one, would rather build a LEGO set than build a puzzle, and there are millions like me), LEGO’s massive growth started in 2019 as they continue to appeal to all genders and demographics. The question everyone asks me is how big LEGO’s D2C business is; I can “guesstimate” it to be 500 million plus, but quite honestly, I’m dart throwing. All we know is that it’s huge, and just keeps growing.

Mattel? Only their best year in seven years, with Barbie having a resurgence. While much of this growth can be ascribed to many reasons, the Barbie digital content has been unbelievably popular. Hot Wheels having their best two years EVER, and credit again to great toys with digital games/apps. A player in Action Figures now with WWE, Jurassic World, Toy Story, plus more. American Girl turning around and slowly returning to their strong D2C model. Unknown to most, Fisher-Price returned to be the leader in the Baby Gear category. Licensing revenues growing and over 20 deals of their IPs for movies, television and digital platforms. And watch out for Mattel Creations, their online collectible biz. I received a sneak peek, and basically “needed” everything.

We can’t forget about MGAE and L.O.L. In my 37 years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a three year run like that. Bigger than Power Ranger or Turtles. While L.O.L. continues to be immensely popular, no one talks about the licensing revenues generated in all of the categories that don’t fall into “traditional toys.” Backpacks, clothes — you name a category, L.O.L. crushed!

Spin Master at their recent analyst day said their business was digital products, consumer products, and entertainment. Flying under the radar is Toca Boca, a huge digital hit.

So what is a toy? Scooters? Bubbles? Kids Sporting Goods? Playgrounds and Backyard Playsets ? Ride-Ons? Digital Products? It’s blurred now more than ever before.

If you’re an analyst, tracking the Industry, or following the industry, time to throw away your model. The business has officially transformed.

As much as I want to call this the toy business because I still LOVE “traditional toys” and they are very popular, it is now so much more. I can’t even call it the Children’s Entertainment Business because these products entertain consumers of all ages. Whatever you want to “label” this business, it’s entertainment for kids of ALL ages, from 2 to 102.